As a professional framer, I have been asked many questions regarding the care and preservation of artwork.  Some of the answers come from a basic knowledge of proper handling and care of art, while some solutions come from the client’s point of view. I am often surprised by how many customers just want to “put a frame around it”. I can certainly provide a modest frame – both monetarily and in terms of the quality of materials. That said, this is often where I find that it is important to differentiate my store, from any other place one might buy a frame.

You see, the quality standards of the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) do not necessarily reflect the values and preferences of a diverse client base, or their emotional attachment to their piece of art.  Though I may be able to preserve someone’s treasured heirloom using the best practices and quality materials (which perhaps is why you came into the store to see me?), it may not be what the customer desires.

This causes me to ask myself “What kind of bar will I set for my store, and for a craft that is slowly disappearing?”  Twenty-Five years ago, when a customer wanted something framed, most people understood that you took it to a professional framer.  Now, a customer can just go to a Big-box or grocery store for a frame or they can get a desk frame at the local pharmacy.

Of late, this profession has gone from preservation practices to simply “putting a frame around it”.  I would suggest that putting a simple black frame on a picture is NOT a simple frame:  it’s an edge, and it’s a mentality that someone at a designer store started. When I hear customers say “All my frames are black”.  What I hear is “My wall looks like a great big grid system, and all my children are trapped in black lines”.  I don’t find this approach artistic, individual, or seeking to compliment the piece of artwork in question.

My frame service will extend your art work and won’t “trap” it in a “line”. I would like to use this extraordinary pastel piece as an example, to provide some perspective.

2014-01-16 16.21.32This pastel portrait came into the store a while back, and as you can see from the original image, it was just “put into something” for the wall.  We were shocked at the treatment of it: it was held in by silver Duct Tape, and the pastel artwork touched the glass, and was beginning to smear.  What’s more, the piece had actually suffered water damage from its lack of attention, and mold had set in on its cardboard backing.  The client’s direction:  “Oh, just clean it up”.  Our reaction: Really?

We knew right away that this was no ordinary portrait, and special care needed to be given to proper restoration.  As a professional framer, I take my commitment to my client seriously, including education regarding proper techniques for art preservation. In this case, after discussion with the client, we proceeded with removing the artwork from its frame, assessed the damage, and found it wasn’t as bad as expected.  Though covered with old Non-Glare glass, once removed the colors in the pastels were still very vibrant.  Not sure of the artist or it’s value, we laid the piece on 8 – ply museum board with an acid – free foam core backing. To prevent the piece from touching the glass, we used clear frame spacers, and glazed the artwork with Tru-Vue Museum Glass.  With a 99% UV protecting coating and glare-resistant surface, the portrait came to life, beautifully.

After the client realized the importance of the subject / artist (a value to the piece.), we began research on portraiture of this style and period, and selected a company – The Framer’s Workshop – to create a finished corner frame in the American Style.  Properly finished and hanging hardware applied, the piece took on a whole new perspective, resulting in a very pleased client and framer.

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Emotional attachment: Was it worth it?  I ask every prospective customer what their project is worth – to them. In this case, the frame took 6 weeks to create out of The Workshop’s California facility.  With glass and labor, this frame job cost approximately $1300.00.  The experience of educating our client, assessing their emotional attachment to the piece and bringing this portrait to standards were well worth every penny – to the framer and to the client.

Let’s take the possibilities a step further in the next blog.